Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

Loaf pans give shape and structure to yeasted and batter breads (like banana bread), and pound cakes—and allow you to cut neat, uniform slices. Metal loaf pans also conduct heat well, directly browning the sides and bottom of whatever you’re baking inside of them. Most are nonstick, too, so your baked goods release from the pan without ripping or sticking.

We haven’t formally reviewed loaf pans, so it was time to change that. To find the best ones, we tested 10 loaf pans to see which ones browned evenly, baked tall and neat loaves that released easily, and were a cinch to clean. 

The Winners, at a Glance

For neat-shaped and evenly browned loaves, the Williams Sonoma loaf pan took the cake (er, banana bread?). The squared-off corners gave loaves straight edges and height while baking. The pan’s nonstick coating released loaves immediately when turned over, and made it easy to clean, too. 

This square-cornered pan also evenly browned loaves and kept breads tidy. The ridged sides and bottoms caused the breads to pull away from the pan while baking for a truly easy release, though some people might not like the patterns they leave on the bread. 

Another great performer, the Great Jones loaf pan baked attractive, tall loaves that were evenly browned. It was the most nonstick out of the squared-corner pans we tested and comes in three bold colors.  

Even with rounded corners, this pan produced tall loaves that were almost as neat as the square-cornered competition. It’s also slightly wider around the top edge which left more room for your thumb to grab onto, and the bronze metal browned breads evenly. The rounded corners were also easier to clean than the folded, square-cornered pans. 

Though it was slightly wider than the other winners, the Nordic Ware pan had looped handles that were easier to grab onto. Paired with its lightweight body, this made it really easy to put it in and take it out of the oven. The metal was also a champagne color that browned loaves evenly. 

The Tests

Serious Eats / Jesse RaubWhite Bread Test: We baked white bread loaves in each pan and checked for even browning, ease of bread removal, how comfortable they were to grab, and the overall height and shape of the bread. Banana Bread Test (Winners-Only): We picked five winners from the first test and baked banana bread in each of them to test for even browning, loaf release, and how comfortable the pans were to grab. We also examined the overall height and shape of the bread.Sourdough Test (Winners-Only): We baked maple whole wheat sourdough bread in the winning square-loaf pans to test for even browning, examine the overall height and shape of the loaves, and to gauge ease of cleanup.Usability, Durability, and Cleanup Tests: We tested how comfortable each pan was to hold and move in and out of the oven, as well as how easy they were to clean. We also ran a butter knife along the edge of each pan three times to simulate removing a stuck-on loaf and checked for any scratching or denting. 

What We Learned

Edge Style Made a Difference

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

The most common style of loaf pan features sharp, squared-off corners made by folding the metal like an envelope on each pan’s front and back. This gave loaves tall sides with clean edges, which made for neater slices. However, excess flour and baked-on bits tended to get stuck in these nooks. We also tested pans with rounded corners, which were easier to clean but didn’t bake loaves that were as tall and attractive. When selecting which pan is right for you, consider whether you appreciate taller, more attractive loaves, or ease of cleanup.

Stated Capacity Shouldn’t Be Taken Literally

Though the stated capacity was one pound, every pan could hold considerably more dough.Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

Every pan we tested stated a capacity of one pound, but in our testing, we found that every pan baked better with more dough. To check on capacity, we portioned each white bread loaf out to exactly 453 grams by weight (the equivalent of one pound), and all of the loaves only filled about two-thirds of each pan when proofed, and only slightly higher when baked. Per the banana bread recipe’s guidance, we filled each loaf pan with 650 grams (about 1.4 pounds) of batter, but even those loaves only came up to the same height. Finally, we pushed for 650 grams (again, about 1.4 pounds) for our maple whole wheat sourdough loaves, and achieved the ultra-tall, domed sandwich loaves we wanted.

Square-Cornered Pans Were Nearly Identical

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

Results between the Williams Sonoma, USA Pan, Great Jones, and Chicago Metallic Commercial II Nonstick Loaf Pan were all very similar. All four pans had nonstick coating, were almost identical in size and shape, and baked nice-looking loaves that had a great oven spring and rose to tall heights. The one main difference between them was the consistency of browning, and some light sticking—the darker Chicago Metallic pan seemed to brown the bottoms and sides of loaves quicker than the other three, and after multiple rounds of baking, a sourdough loaf stuck to its corners and edges. 

Pan Shape Dictated Bread Height

Wider loaf pans led to squat loaves—especially with dense banana bread.Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

While all four square-sided pans (along with the OXO Good Grips Nonstick Pro Loaf Pan) baked tall and narrow loaves, wider loaf pans, like the Nordic Ware Treat Nonstick Loaf Pan and Pyrex Easy Grab Glass Loaf Dish With Lid, baked short, stout loaves that weren’t ideal for sandwich bread. We didn’t mind shorter banana bread as much, so if you’re mostly looking for a loaf pan to handle quick breads and pound cakes, pan shape shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. If you’ve got eyes on baking bread for sandwiches, however, go for a narrow, tall pan.

Material and Color Affected Browning and Baking Times

Some materials, like glass, need much longer baking times.Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

Pans made of darker metal (like Chicago Metallic, All-Clad, and Wilton) tended to brown loaves slightly faster than lighter pans. However, it didn’t make a huge difference in terms of taste or crust texture. We actually noticed more of a difference in baking times with quick bread, like banana bread. During our tests, we took the temperature of the banana bread in each pan (the target temp is 206ºF), and found that darker pans reached our target temperature close to 55 minutes while lighter pans took around 60 minutes. Our one glass pan lagged at the back of the pack, taking whopping 70 minutes to finish baking, due to glass being a poor heat conductor. 

Pans Without Handles Are Hard to Grab

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

None of the square-cornered pans had handles, and neither did the OXO or Caraway Nonstick Loaf Pan. This made it hard to grab any of them with a towel or potholder, though we didn’t have as much trouble when we switched to heat-resistant gloves. And while the All-Clad Loaf Pan and Wilton Advanced Select Loaf Pan had handles, they were narrow, rectangular tabs that were hard to grasp. With wide, looped handles, the Nordic Ware was easy to move in and out of the oven. It was also one of the lightest pans we tested at 13 ounces, making it a good choice for people with limited mobility. 

Pans with Folded Lips Can Trap Water

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

Almost every pan we tested had a rolled lip where the metal was folded over onto itself, which traps water easily and can cause rusting. The same goes for the folds on the sides of the square-edged pans. It’s important to let these pans dry upside down and right side up to make sure all the water can drain out before being put away. 

Nonstick Coatings Are Prone to Scratching

Though it can be minor, edges and corners can get easily scratched.Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

To simulate removing a sticky loaf, we worked a butter knife around the inside edges of each pan three times and noted where the teeth left scratch marks. Every metal pan we tested had a scratch-prone nonstick coating, but at the same time, all of these pans released their loaves immediately without needing to pry anything out. Overtime, however, nonstick coating can wear away so it’s best to store your pans where they won’t get dinged. The only pan that caused significant sticking was the glass Pyrex pan. It held up well to our scratch test, which was good because we had to pry the bread out of it with considerable force. 

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Loaf Pan

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

A great loaf pan bakes evenly browned, neatly-shaped loaves. It should be made from aluminized steel for optimized browning and have a nonstick coating that releases loaves immediately when turned over, and is easy to clean up, too. Finally, a good loaf pan is versatile and can handle yeasted breads, batter breads, and sourdough. 

What we liked: The Williams Sonoma loaf pan was the only one that evenly browned white bread, banana bread, and whole wheat sourdough bread during testing. It baked tall and neatly-shaped loaves that easily released from the pan, thanks to its nonstick coating, and overall it was easy to clean. Its heavier weight also made it feel sturdy. 

What we didn’t like: Its folded corners can trap excess flour and bits of dough, so you might have to spend a few extra minutes cleaning its nooks and crannies. It also has a fair amount of folds that can trap water, so make sure that it spends time face up and face down in the drying rack. Lastly, it was one of the more expensive options we tested. 

Price at time of publish: $30.

Key Specs

Weight: 1.25 poundsMaterials: Aluminized steelProduct dimensions: 9 x 5 x 3 inchesInterior dimensions: 8 x 3.75 x 3 inchesMax temperature: 450ºFCare instructions: Dishwasher-safe, hand washing is recommended to preserve nonstick coatingSerious Eats / Jesse Raub

What we liked: Like the Williams Sonoma, the USA Pan baked tall loaves and was easy to clean up afterward. It also browned each loaf fairly evenly in all three tests. It has ridges that run the length of the sides and bottom of the pan that cause the bread to pull away during baking, which also helped the loaves release easily when removing the bread. It’s a great all-around loaf pan that performed well in every test. 

What we didn’t like: The ridged texture on pan leaves lines running down the sides and bottoms of each loaf that some people might dislike. Since the pan is a light silver color, sometimes this meant the sides and bottoms of loaves were slightly less browned than the top. Some people might also dislike the lined pattern that the pan’s ridges leave on  bread. It also features folds in the metal, which are tricky to clean.

Price at time of publish: $19.

Key Specs

Weight: 1 poundMaterials: Aluminized steelProduct dimensions: 9 x 5 x 3 inchesInterior dimensions: 8 x 3.75 x 3 inchesMax temperature: 450ºF Care instructions: Hand-wash with warm, soapy waterSerious Eats / Jesse Raub

What we liked: We really appreciated the added flair of Great Jones’ multiple color options on top of being a well-performing pan. It baked beautiful, tall loaves that fell right out when the pan was tipped on its side. All three loaves were evenly browned during testing, 

What we didn’t like: The darker pink color of the pan we tested browned loaves slightly quicker than our other top square-sided pans, resulting in slightly darker bottoms and sides and a lighter top. It still browned fairly evenly overall. It also has the same cleaning issues as the other two square-cornered pans.

Price at time of publish: $28.

Key Specs

Weight: 1 poundMaterials: Aluminized steelProduct dimensions: 9 x 5 x 3 inchesInterior dimensions: 8 x 3.75 x 3 inchesMax temperature: 450ºFCare instructions: Dishwasher-safe, handwashing recommended to preserve nonstick coatingSerious Eats / Jesse Raub

What we liked: If you want an easier-to-clean pan that gives you neatly shaped loaves, the OXO option fits the bill. It browned white bread and banana bread evenly, and even though it has rounded corners, they sloped upward pretty aggressively to give a fairly tall loaf compared to other round-cornered options. 

What we didn’t like: The resulting loaves weren’t as nice looking as the square-sided winners, which also meant the slices weren’t as even, either. 

Price at time of publish: $21.

Key Specs

Weight: 15 ouncesMaterials: Aluminized steelProduct dimensions: 9 x 5 x 3 inchesInterior dimensions: 8 x 4 x 3 inchesMax temperature: 450ºFCare instructions: Dishwasher-safeSerious Eats / Jesse Raub

What we liked: One of the lightest pans we tested, the Nordic Ware also had big, easy-to-grab looped handles, making it a good option for people  who have struggled to pull a loaf pan out of the oven in the past. Its champagne color helped brown breads evenly, and it baked banana bread a full 10 minutes faster than the competition. Its rounded corners also made it really easy to clean. 

What we didn’t like: The biggest issues with this pan was the overall size and shape. It’s a wide pan with gently sloping rounded corners, and every bread tested came out shorter than we’d like. Still, it performed just fine otherwise, and if you want a loaf pan with handles, this was the best option we tested.

Price at time of publish: $19.

Key Specs

Weight: 13 ouncesMaterials: Aluminized steelProduct dimensions: 12 x 6.25 x 2.75 inchesInterior dimensions: 8 x 4.25 x 2.5 inchesMax temperature: 450ºFCare instructions: Hand-washing recommendedSerious Eats / Jesse Raub

The Competition

Chicago Metallic Commercial II Nonstick Loaf Pan: The darker color of this pan led to more uneven browning than the other square-sided pans. It also had issues with the sourdough loaves sticking, too. Caraway Nonstick Loaf Pan: This pan baked a wide and flat loaf of white bread and was also the most expensive pan tested. Pyrex Easy Grab Glass Loaf Dish With Lid: This was the only pan that bread stuck to during testing and bread took longer to bake because glass isn’t as conductive as metal. It’s also too wide and shallow to bake neat-looking loaves. We did like the included lid. All-Clad Loaf Pan: The dark color of this pan browned the sides and bottoms of the white bread too aggressively. Wilton Advanced Select Loaf Pan: This pan was also too dark, leading to uneven browning, and it was also too wide to bake neat, tall loaves. 


What is a loaf pan?

A loaf pan is a rectangular pan that’s designed for baking loaves of bread and can be made from metal, glass, and stoneware. They’re often used to make yeasted sandwich bread, and they’re key for desserts like banana bread or pound cake. Most loaf pans taper slightly outward from the base, giving space for the bread to expand upwards and outwards while baking. 

What size is a standard loaf pan?

There are a variety of loaf pan sizes that are considered standard, but the most common size is a one-pound loaf pan, which often measures nine-by-five inches at the lip and tapers to eight-by-four inches at the base. There are also pullman-style loaf pans, which come with a lid and have high, straight sides for perfectly rectangular loaves.

Should you grease a loaf pan?

Most loaf pans are nonstick and don’t need to be greased for breads to release. Some bread recipes call for dusting cornmeal or semolina flour to make them release easier, too. You can grease a loaf pan for cakes and quick breads, but some recipes for stickier cakes and batter breads will sometimes suggest a parchment paper sling, instead. 

How long should bread rise in a loaf pan?

This depends on the recipe—some breads have a long overnight fermentation in the fridge followed by a full degassing and shaping before being placed in the pan to proof. Other breads might have a quicker baking cycle and need less time to prove. Then there’s also the kitchen temperature—the hotter the kitchen, the faster the proving. Ideally, your bread should prove until it’s about a half-inch underneath the lip of the loaf pan, which should give it plenty of space to expand during baking without spilling over the sides of the pan. 

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